Acid-Powered Alien Engines!

Imagine I told you that by using newer equipment, scientists have now observed what appears to be a very sophisticated propulsion system in use on Venus that operates similarly to an outboard motor on a boat to drive objects through their liquid environment. Unlike man-made engines, these alien engines are up to 100% efficient and run on acid, which is readily available in their environment. These engines are built very similarly to our engines, using components like O-rings, driveshafts, universal joints, and stators. What differentiates these engines are their capabilities. My car engine redlines at 8,000 rpm, and a military jet engine typically maxes out between 13,000 and 15,000 rpm. These exotic engines can get up to 100,000 rpm! On top of that, these alien engines are fully bi-directional, meaning they can rotate in either direction at those speeds.

Based on this new information, what would you conclude regarding these Venusian engines? Not just one or two engines, but millions of them everywhere the scientists look through these modern high-powered lenses. One could only conclude that there is some form of intelligent life on Venus. This creature became aware of a need, imagined a solution, developed a working model, and build the final product – an acid-powered, high-speed propulsion system. And this foreign life-form must be at least as intelligent as we are since we have similar engines, but ours are not capable of such high rpms nor running bi-directionally as observed in these engines. I dare say most people would claim that this is unequivocal proof of intelligent life on the planet Venus.

Now, what would you say if I told you these engines I describe above are not an exercise in imagination but have actually been observed? Except for one small detail –  these machines were not seen on Venus. No, it turns out they are much closer to us than that. The new equipment that scientists have used to find these engineering marvels is called an electron telescope. These engines are microscopically tiny yet are found all around us, right here on planet Earth. You’ve probably heard about these engines before, too, but not to this level of detail. These minuscule outboard motors are referred to as flagella and are found on some variants of bacteria. Flagellum are the tiny whip-like structures you probably saw pictures of in high school science class. (Each is only 10 micrometers long.) The flagella can only rotate and propel the bacteria because each flagella is driven by one of these tiny, acid-powered engines. All this is happening at the molecular scale, so small that we could never see them before.

Which leads us to ask, who was the Designer of these minuscule engines? Scientists believe bacteria have been around for 3.5 billion years. Based on those time scales, there was no intelligent life in the universe at that time to design them.

Alternatively, the Judeo-Christian worldview says that an Intelligent Being designed not only bacteria’s acid-based engines but everything we see around us. This Intelligent Being created all that we see and know and designed it so people would have a suitable place to sustain their lives. All we see around us did not happen by chance but has been envisioned, designed, engineered, and built so we would have a place to call home. And this worldview says the Intelligent Being is personal and has revealed himself to men and women. The motivation behind all this effort on His part is love. Love for every man, woman, boy, and girl who are living, have lived, or ever will live on this planet.

I find it easier to believe in an intelligent, loving, creator God than the possibility that aliens from Venus are building engines so similar to what we humans have developed. And believing in this loving God gives my life purpose and meaning since He created this world for us, and He has revealed to us that He wants to be in relationship with Him.

My question for you is this, who is taking a more significant leap of faith – the one who denies scientific data to continue to cling to a scientific theory that is rapidly decaying? Or the one who holds a view that allows for an intelligent, all-powerful God to be the Designer behind all that exists, even if the concept of God may be uncomfortable for that person?

Source:

David J. DeRosier, ‘The Turn of the Screw: The Bacterial Flagellar Motor.’ Cell 93 (April 3, 1998):17

Heart Attacks

This story was originally delivered as a message during a Sunday morning service at Crosswalk Church in Waukesha, WI.

A coronary event may kill your mortal body, but an attack on your heart puts your very soul at risk.

The Refugees

Home. They were finally heading home. And they were, oh, so close. The refugees were on the long journey back to their homeland. When they reached the border of the country that stood between them and home, their worst fears were realized – armed men stood in their way and they were refused entry. The entire band, including women, children, and babies, had to travel miles and miles out of their way, adding tremendous hardship to their journey. The refugees’ hatred for this inhospitable nation lasted for decades. After they had resettled in their homeland, laws were enforced that forbade any of their people to marry one of their hated enemies.

But many years later, under very unusual circumstances, a man and a woman from these different peoples broke the Law and married one another. This fine woman was devoted to her husband, her adopted people, and worshiped their God. You can read all the details of this amazing story in the book of Ruth in your Bibles.

This couple, named Boaz and Ruth, had a son named Obed. Obed, in turn, fathered a son named Jesse. And Jesse had many sons. Jesse was a very devote Jew, and so wanted to keep the Law given by God completely. The Jewish Law forbids a Jewish woman from marrying a Moabite man.[1] Yet this was precisely what Obed’s grandparents, Boaz and Ruth, had done.

Jesse’s Heart Attacked

According to Jewish tradition, Jesse’s heart was attacked.[2]

Although Jesse was already the father of seven sons, his heart was tormented. His grandmother was a Moabite, which made him one-quarter Moabite. Yet, he himself had married Nitzevet, a beautiful, devout Jewish woman. Was Jesse breaking God’s command be being married to his beautiful Jewish wife? The thought disturbed Jesse so much that he determined he would never sleep with his wife, Nitzevet. No, never again. Unfortunately, Jesse did not bother consulting Nitzevet on this decision. And Nitzevet definitely wanted more children! She knew her Scriptures well and thought back to the time before the Jews had traveled into Egypt when Tamar had a similar problem.[3] Nitzevet considered Tamar’s approach to resolving her issue and decided that if it worked for Tamar, it could work for her.[4]

The Questionable Pregnancy

The story is preserved in the Talmud, which records much Jewish history and teaching. The story is written that one night when Jesse had gone into the town, Nitzevet disguised herself as a prostitute. She then went into town herself. Per her plan, Nitzevet found Jesse and seduced him. Jesse, not recognizing his own wife, assumed this woman was a prostitute and slept with her. Through this one encounter, Nitzevet became pregnant. However, she never embarrassed Jesse by revealing that she had been the one who seduced him that fateful night. When it eventually became embarrassingly apparent that Nitzevet was pregnant, Jesse was righteously outraged, quite sure he was not the father. He had not slept with Nitzevet for months! But since Jesse loved Nitzevet, and had known her to be a godly woman,[5] he did not divorce her or have her stoned, as Jewish Law allowed.

These are the circumstances into which David was born. The Bible tells us that David had a “ruddy appearance,” which suggests that he looked quite different than his siblings.[6] (The term ruddy means red – could David have been a redhead?)

Red-head MAD

I can imagine the family assembling for the annual family portrait. Since David is the youngest, Nitzevet protests, “Jesse, why is David in the back? No one will be able to see him!” Jesse obliges Nitzevet and reluctantly brings David to the front. But Jesse positions David off to the side – it will be much easier to crop him out of the picture later this way. Good thing they didn’t have cameras in David’s time.

The Talmud, a non-Biblical historical narrative, helps clarify some of the unusual happenings in the Biblical account. We have to remember that this is not Biblical material – therefore, we are not as assured of its truthfulness. However, I believe the story is likely to be mostly, if not wholly accurate, because it fills in the gaps in the Biblical account so well.

A King to Replace Saul

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long do you intend to mourn for Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with olive oil and go! I am sending you to Jesse in Bethlehem, for I have selected a king for myself from among his sons.” Samuel replied, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me!” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord .’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you should do. You will anoint for me the one I point out to you.” Samuel did what the Lord told him. When he arrived in Bethlehem, the elders of the city were afraid to meet him. They said, “Do you come in peace?” He replied, “Yes, in peace. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” So he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel noticed Eliab and said to himself, “Surely, here before the Lord stands his chosen king!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one, either.” Then Jesse presented Shammah. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Is that all of the young men?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest one, but he’s taking care of the flock.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we cannot turn our attention to other things until he comes here.” So Jesse had him brought in. Now he was ruddy, with attractive eyes and a handsome appearance. The Lord said, “Go and anoint him. This is the one!” So Samuel took the horn full of olive oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day onward. Then Samuel got up and went to Ramah.

1 Samuel 16:1-13 NET

In this scripture, when Samuel asks to see all of Jesse’s sons, we seldom stop to ask ourselves why David is excluded. If Jesse did not consider David to be his own son, it makes perfect sense that Jesse would not have presented David to Samuel. But then note the curious response that Samuel gives Jesse. Samuel does not ask if Jesse has any other

David with Harp and Sheep

sons. Rather, as one translation puts it, Saul asks “Are there no other lads?” (I imagine Saul speaking with a Scottish accent!) To which Jesse reluctantly admits that well, yes, but… There is David (that illegitimate son of his wife.) David is so poorly regarded, he is relegated to watching the sheep. Shepherds were among the lowest of the low in Jewish culture.

When David summoned and presented to Samuel, the Lord tells Samuel that David, the one whom his own family is ashamed of, this is the one that the Lord has chosen. Samuel anoints David as King over Israel “in the presence of his brothers.” Can you imagine the discussion among David’s brothers later that day when Samuel had left?

Sometime later, Jesse sends David with supplies to the Israelite army and to David’s brothers who are assembled for the battle. David arrives to find a standoff between the Philistines and the Israelites, who are led by King Saul. David is incensed when he hears Goliath boasting against the Lord. He indignantly asks why no one has agreed to fight this Philistine – and his brothers openly chastise David.[7]

Multiple Heart Attacks

David wrote most of the poems and songs that comprise the Book of Psalms. As we read David’s psalms, we sense a soul whose heart has been attacked and wounded many times. One who has suffered deeply and yet has learned to trust God in every trial. Even though God sees him through his trials, we still hear the anxiety and pain caused by those trials in many of his psalms:

  • “Even though my father and mother abandon me, the Lord would take me in.”[8]
  • “O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture?”[9]
  • “Do not take your holy spirit from me!”[10]
  • “Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?”[11]
  • “My God, I cry out during the day, but you do not answer, and during the night my prayers do not let up.”[12]

Through these varied attacks over many years, David learned to trust God, to pour out the troubles of his heart to God. And David became known as “the man after God’s own heart.”[13] Without the trials, the depth of relationship with God would never have come.

David and Jesus

I cannot help but notice the similarities between David and Jesus. Just glance through this list, and it is remarkable. Actually, it is more likely intentional. God shaped David’s life as a pattern, so when Messiah came, we would see these similarities which would help us recognize the Messiah.

  • Both David and Jesus were born in suspicious circumstances. Both were suspected, although wrongly, of being illegitimate children of unfaithful women.
  • Both had tensions with their families. We’ve seen how David’s family shunned him. The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him.[14]
  • Both were from Bethlehem.[15]
  • Samuel anointed David before his family while King Saul still reigned. Jesus was announced as the King while Caesar still ruled.[16]
  • As David’s story continues, King Saul attempts to murder David. Similarly, when Jesus was born, King Herod order all the children in the region where Jesus was born to be massacred. Both David and Jesus threatened reigning kings to the extent that were ready to murder to hold onto their positions.
  • Both David and Jesus experienced abandonment issues. David wrote the famous Psalm 22, where he cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Centuries later, Jesus cries out these very words since they represent exactly how He feels while He is bearing the sin of all mankind while nailed to the cross.[17]

Psalm 27:8-10 “My heart tells me to pray to you, and I do pray to you, O Lord. Do not reject me! Do not push your servant away in anger! You are my deliverer! Do not forsake or abandon me, O God who vindicates me! Even if my father and mother abandoned me, the Lord would take me in.”

Matthew 26:38-39 “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

  • Both Jesus and David taught with great wisdom. Centuries later, both of their words have been immortalized in the Holy Scriptures. David’s words are found in the Psalms, and Jesus’ teachings are recorded in the Gospels.

David’s Writings

Now, if David had written a self-help book on how to raise your children, I wouldn’t buy it. If he wrote a book about how to have a great marriage relationship, I wouldn’t touch it. But David wrote THE book on how to learn to cast your cares on God and draw near to Him. What he wrote has instructed generations on how to survive any heart attack that might be thrown our way. I bought David’s book – as have millions of other people. It’s known as the Psalms. And David’s writings from his wounded heart have helped people for over two millennia draw strength from his own experiences of God’s faithfulness. People in the midst of war, people being persecuted, people facing death through famine, plague, or violence have all found comfort in the Psalms of David.

The Hearts of God’s People

The Bible is chock full of stories of ordinary people, like you and me, whose hearts were attacked. Let’s visit just a few of those people’s stories.

Saul

Saul was chosen king, but when his heart was attacked – he failed. He tired of waiting on God and decided instead to please the people he ruled. So, he impatiently offered a sacrifice to God himself rather than waiting for Samuel to come to offer the sacrifice, as he had been told. God rejected Saul as King. “To obey is better than sacrifice.”[18]

Abram and Sarai

Abram and Sarai were broken-hearted. They desperately wanted children and remained childless until their old age. God had even promised Abram that he would have many descendants! (Did God have a wicked sense of humor?) Abram is in his nineties and still no son. Then God provided a miracle baby, whom Abram and Sarai name Isaac, which means laughter. Why laughter? Because Abram was 100 and Sarai 90 years old when Laughter was born![19]

Abraham is overjoyed that God did indeed remember him and provided Isaac so his name could continue. But then God asks Abraham to kill his only son as part of a religious sacrifice. Abraham’s heart is attacked again. But the Scriptures say Abraham trusted God, Isaac was spared, and Abram’s faith was counted to him as righteousness.[20]

Joseph

Joseph’s heart was attacked repeatedly – his brothers hated him as he was growing up. His brothers eventually sold him into slavery[21]; he was betrayed by his master’s wife; Joseph’s cellmate, the cupbearer, promised to remember Joseph and promptly forgot him and left Joseph to rot in prison.

Finally, after the Pharaoh had a ghastly dream, Joseph was remembered. Joseph interpreted this dream for Pharaoh. Recognizing the truth of Joseph’s interpretation, Pharaoh instructed Joseph to implement a plan to save all of Egypt and the surrounding nations from the drought that God had warned Pharaoh of in that dream.

God allowed Joseph’s heart to be attacked so violently so that eventually all Israel and many other people could be saved.

Hannah

Hannah’s heart was attacked because of her barrenness. The women in her town mercilessly taunted Hannah because she could not bear a child. Surely this was a sign that God was punishing Hannah, and she was not worthy of God’s blessings.

Year after year, Hannah went to the Temple to pray, pleading with God to give her a son. One year she was at the Temple late into the evening, weeping before God. The priest came upon her and assumed she was drunk and rebuked her.[22]

Hannah protested and explained she was not drunk, but broken before God.[23]

Eli, the priest, soundly corrected by Hannah, then blesses Hannah. God heard Hannah’s prayer – she became pregnant and gave birth to the prophet Samuel.

The Other Joseph

Imagine you are engaged to be married, and then you find out your betrothed has been cheating on you. The disbelief, the hurt, the anger. What a terrible attack on one’s heart to be betrayed in this manner.

This is just how Joseph’s heart was attacked when he learned his beloved fiancé Mary was pregnant. Joseph had no doubt he was not the father. How this must have tormented his soul! He considered divorcing Mary, but privately to spare her the shame.

One night, God sent an angel to Joseph to reassure him of Mary’s faithfulness. Joseph went ahead and married Mary, and by doing so, Joseph became Jesus’s earthly dad.[24]

Jesus

Even Jesus’ heart was attacked many times while He dwelt among us. We read of how His heart ached when He saw a dear friend lifeless – He was moved so much so that He wept.[25] Again, Jesus’ heart was attacked when He was betrayed by one of the men in His inner circle.[26] Yet again, His heart was attacked, this time by His own Father. For the Father was firm that there was no other way to accomplish His purpose than through the agony of the cross.

But through each of these attacks on His heart, Jesus remained faithful, trusting and obeying the Father.[27]

We must remember that the reason Jesus became a man and dwelt among men, women, boys, and girls, was so He could redeem them all. His work was to once and for all deal with the problem of sin.[28] The only way this could be accomplished was through the death of Jesus. Not a natural death; rather a cruel, painful death that had been devised to punish the worst criminals of the time. Crucifixion was specifically designed to be a prolonged, agonizing execution.

Jesus desired to accomplish God’s purposes, yet like any of us, He would have rather avoided suffering an excruciating death. Three times He pleads with the Father to find another way, any other way, to redeem His people.

There is no. Other. Way.

Jesus is arrested, tried, whipped, and crucified. While dying on the cross, what He may have dreaded the most happens. Because He has taken on every sin of every person in all of history, God the Father turns His back on Jesus. The eternal bond between Father and Son is somehow broken. At this moment, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me?”

Precisely when Jesus felt most abandoned by God is when God was doing his greatest work through Jesus.

You and Me

God never allows us to suffer for no reason. God permits us each to experience heart attacks, but not because God is perverse. No, God realizes that in this fallen world, the only way for us to learn to trust in Him deeply is through allowing us to experience trials. God is always present, always with us, ever waiting to help us, no matter how difficult the trouble.

James explains further that we should expect and welcome trials in our lives. James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”[29]

Remember Joseph, who had been sold into slavery and suffered in prison? Years after that horrendous act, Joseph reconciles with his brothers. As he forgives them, explains what God has taught him about his hardships. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.[30]

This is a clear statement of one of God’s principles that stands for all time.

God will often use our most painful experiences to glorify Himself. When we suffer, we are being prepared to attend to others who are suffering. The difference is that after our testing, we no longer look down upon people with pity, but we settle in alongside them as fellow sufferers. We would not be prepared to help them had we ourselves not suffered.

When we feel abandoned by God, He may be doing His greatest work in us to build our character and draw us closer to Him.

Strengthen Your Heart

When we feel everything is going against us, that God has abandoned us, that death would be better than facing the circumstances we are facing, we need to recognize that our hearts are under attack. At these times, we need to remember that God is faithful. God knew you and me while we were being formed in our mothers’ wombs.[31] God had a plan for you before He created the world.[32]

Since all that is true, God has certainly not forgotten you. Rather, He is drawing you into closer relationship with Him by learning what faith really means. It’s easy to believe in God when everything is going well, and life is easy. (And equally simple to forget God when life is so easy.) But when you reach your rope’s end and you have completely run out of options, when life has gotten beyond you, when you are so low that you stretch up to reach bottom, then you are right where God wants you. For then, when you have finally exhausted yourself, God will step in and lift you up. “When I am weak, then I am strong. For God’s power is perfected in us in weakness.”[33]

Hearten Others

Examine your life and the heart attacks you have been given. Ask yourself what God was teaching you or preparing you for by allowing that struggle in your life. (Or perhaps is still teaching you.) More than likely, whatever attacked you, even if it was meant to harm you, God allowed it for good.

How will you now bless others through what you have learned? How can you strengthen someone else’s faith by sharing their burden in a way that is unique to you because of what God has taught you?

Ask God for clarity on what He has been doing in you and how you can bless others.

Prayer for Enlightened Hearts

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.”[34]

Footnotes

[1] Deuteronomy 23:4

[2] See the Talmud.

[3] Genesis 38:6-26

[4] While Nitzevet knew her Scriptures well, he methods for applying them to daily life were lacking. Just because a story is recorded in Scripture does not mean that we are to emulate that behavior. In many cases, it is just the opposite – God has recorded the errors of those who came before us so we can learn from their mistakes.

[5] Psalm 86:16

[6] 1 Samuel 16:12

[7] 1 Samuel 17:28

[8] Psalm 27:10

[9] Psalm 74:1

[10] Psalm 51:11

[11] Psalm 44:23-24

[12] Psalm 22:2

[13] 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22

[14] John 7:5

[15] Luke 2:11

[16] Matthew 2:2, Matthew 27:29, 37

[17] Mark 15:34

[18] 1 Samuel 15:22

[19] Genesis 21

[20] Genesis 22:15-18; Hebrews 11:17-18; Romans 4:3; James 2:23

[21] Genesis 37:28

[22] 1 Samuel 1:1-18

[23] To clarify, this is a paraphrase, and not exactly what Hannah said to Eli.

[24] Matthew 1:20-24

[25] John 11:1-35

[26] Matthew 26:16

[27] 1 Peter 2:22

[28] Hebrews 7:27

[29] James 1:2-4

[30] Genesis 50:20

[31] Jeremiah 1:5

[32] Ephesians 1:4

[33] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[34] Ephesians 1:17-19

The Twice Given Gift: A Love Story

Captain Smith and Pocahontas. Romeo and Juliet.[i] Their Bruno loves Noellelove can’t hold a candle to the love of Bruno and Noelle. Bruno is a young man who is completely infatuated by his beloved, Noelle. For years now, they have truly loved one another and constantly do little things to show their love. Life for them could not be better. One day, Bruno goes to great trouble and expense to obtain a rare, expensive gift for Noelle. Bruno has done his homework and discovered precisely what Noelle wants. In all honesty, Bruno clearly sees why Noelle loved this gift and even loves it himself. After he bought it, he considered, ever so briefly, just keeping it for himself. Although the gift was challenging to find and very expensive, it was worth everything to him to please his Noelle by gifting it to her.

The gift that Noelle desired, and Bruno had acquired for her, was a six-inch leaded-glass orb, perfectly clear, with ribbons of vibrant color dancing through the middle, swirling around each other, but always distinct. As you peer into this web of color, it is like looking at clouds on a warm summer day, where different images appear before your eyes. The globe is mesmerizing, and the workmanship without equal. If you were to be privileged to see this amazing globe, you would instantly understand why so many fairy tales incorporate a crystal ball. You would likely be tempted to peer into it for hours.

Bruno has arranged to meet Noelle, and with great anticipation, he presents the gift to her. She is shocked and overjoyed, moved to tears. She embraces Bruno, kisses him, and tells him how much she loves him. She praises his thoughtfulness and admires his dedication to get her exactly what she wanted. Bruno is happy, to say the least.

Noelle proudly displays this beautiful glass orb where it catches the sunlight, and she can see it often during the day. Every time she sees it, she is reminded of Bruno. Everyone who comes to see Noelle, and there are many, also loves to gaze at this amazing work of art. This gives Noelle the opportunity to regularly brag of Bruno’s generosity and love in offering it to her.

Ah, but then Margie comes into the picture. Margie has known Noelle for years and has always felt inferior to her. Margie realizes just how precious this gift is to Noelle. So one day, she sneaks into Noelle’s home and steals the globe out of jealousy, spite, and hatred. Noelle is distraught when she notices her globe missing. It is always displayed in the same place of prominence. Then when Noelle discovers Margie’s treachery, she is outraged. And Margie has the audacity to brag about her misdeed and besmirch the value of Noelle’s great gift. No words can express the boiling wrath that Noelle feels towards Margie. Noelle remains all but inconsolable for days and days.

Bruno can barely stand to see the pain that his gift has now caused Noelle. If only he had never given her the globe, she would not be in such sorrow now. But as Bruno aches for his love, he ponders how he might make things right and devises a plan. As much as he is repulsed by Margie, he sets up a meeting with her. Only because of his great love for Noelle, he negotiates with Margie to see if he can work out an arrangement. Margie ultimately agrees to sell the gift back to Bruno, but for much, much more than what it cost Bruno originally. Bruno is outraged that Margie would delight in causing Noelle so much grief and hold her prized gift as a ransom. But Bruno decides it is the only way. The next day, Bruno empties his bank accounts, sells his car, his guitar, and everything else he owns of any value. By doing so, he scrapes up just enough money to repurchase the globe from Margie.

Late one night, per Margie’s demands, Bruno and Margie meet, and the exchange is made. Bruno gets home and opens the sack to inspect the globe. Only then does he discover that not only had Margie stolen the precious crystal globe, but she had also defaced it. The ball had been dipped in tar, then rolled around on the ground, picking up dirt, pebbles, straw, and feathers. It was disgusting and smelled rancid – perhaps even a bit of skunk essence mixed in.

Anger renewed, Bruno begins painstakingly cleaning the gift so it might again be acceptable for Noelle. At first, it is simple work, removing large items from the exterior, but as Bruno continues working to restore the once magnificent globe, he finds each layer more difficult to remove. As he gets nearer and nearer to the glassy surface, he works painstakingly to remove only the disgusting tar, while not damaging the precious globe. Bruno labors for days removing the pernicious pitch. When finally the tar has all been removed, Bruno is disheartened to discover that the glass underneath still appears cloudy – the orb lacks its original luster. Days later, Bruno has been able to polish the orb to its original splendor. Perfect – except for one scratch that is so deep it cannot be removed. And that one deep scratch has required much attention, to ensure that none of the wretched tar has remained behind.

Satisfied that the orb has finally been returned to its original beauty, Bruno approaches Noelle. She is still profoundly saddened at the loss of her gift but presses on each day. Bruno calls Noelle to his side and tells her he has a little surprise for her that may cheer her a bit.

“Close your eyes, my love.”

Then Bruno brings the restored orb out and holds it before her.

“Noelle, you may open your eyes now.”

The look of shock and wonder on Noelle’s face is overwhelming. Her eyes widen and she lets out a shriek of joy. Noelle gently receives her resplendent ball, then sets it safely aside and throws herself into Bruno. She wraps her arms around him and kisses him over and over and thanks him as tears roll down her cheeks. Bruno’s heart is bursting inside his chest, seeing the delight of his beloved. And Noelle has never loved Bruno more.

Bruno quietly apologizes that he could not remove the one deep scratch.

Noelle replies, “No, Bruno, it is perfect. Every time I see that scratch, it will remind me even more of your boundless love for me.”

And they both lived happily ever after and the crystal orb was never disturbed again.

 

This parable is, of course, fictional, but I hope it will be a useful analogy. The great thing about analogies is they help us understand difficult things by relating them to something we already understand. The terrible thing about analogies, is they are never perfect, and if we press the details, they are never completely accurate.

But let me explain my parable to you and you can decide if this rings true. Noelle represents God the Father, and Bruno is Jesus, His beloved Son. Margie is Satan. And the beautiful orb? That would be you and me – and every other person in all of history.

I believe in the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are One Being, yet three Persons. This is difficult for us to understand since we humans are constrained to only one person per being.[ii] But God does not have human constraints. From before the dawn of time, the Father, the Son and the Spirit all loved One another and lived together in perfect harmony. Yet They agreed that the introduction of intelligent creatures with free will that would be able to share in their love would be good.[iii] The Bible also tells us that all things were created by Jesus Christ.[iv]

My hypothesis is that, in some measure, Adam and Eve, and all their offspring, were created by Jesus and presented to the Father as a precious gift. The Father delights in His people, Jesus is delighted both by His people and that His Father loves them so. The Spirit, who has breathed life, both physical and spiritual, into these creatures, delights in the joy of both the Father and the Son. Love has expanded by the creation of these magnificent creatures called humans.

But the Bible tells us that Satan was jealous of God,[v] and I believe he may have been particularly envious of people. Why would God delight so much in these measly humans when Satan himself was such a wonderous being? So Satan bewitched Adam and Eve into disobeying God[vi]and stole all of humanity from the Father. Since the crystal orb represents humanity, my analogy falters some at this point. For in the story, the sphere did not reject Noelle. But we, Jesus’ gift to the Father, have all turned against the Father of our own free wills.[vii]

But the analogy gets back on track since Jesus paid the highest price to buy back His gift, to redeem humanity, and present us back to the Father. Jesus did not just sell His earthly possessions, but He paid with His lives. Lives? Jesus was executed by the Romans on a cross on Golgotha, and His physical body died. But at that same moment, suspended in time, Jesus died spiritually as well. Jesus, the Son of God, Who delighted in the love of His Father before there was a creation, was suddenly cut off from the Father.[viii] Jesus experienced the full just wrath of His Father, that was rightfully directed to His disobedient, hateful people, and experienced spiritual death on our behalf. [ix] At that critical moment in history, God died. The Son and the Father, two Persons in One Being, were somehow separated.

Jesus bought back His gift at great personal expense[x] and presented redeemed humanity back to the Father.[xi] His Father was delighted, overjoyed. But here is the mystery that my analogy cannot begin to explain. God the Father raised God the Son, Jesus, back to life – both physical and spiritual.[xii] The Triune God has been made whole again. God, One Being, is once again Three in One – Father, Son, and Spirit, and Their joy and love for One another has been elevated, assuming that is even possible for God.

After Jesus rose from the dead, His resurrected body was not completely restored. “Put your finger in the holes in my hand, touch the hole in my side.”[xiii] Jesus will bear the wounds that redeemed us as an eternal reminder of His great love both for His Father and for us. As Michael Card so aptly put it, “When the kingdom comes with its perfected sons, He will be known by the scars.[xiv]

So each time a man, woman, boy or girl, repents and gives their life to Jesus, another person has been regifted to the Father. The Scriptures tell us that there is rejoicing in heaven whenever someone repents.[xv] I believe the angels dance and hoot and holler. But the One who rejoices the most is God – the Father rejoicing in having His precious gift returned, the Son at the joy He has given to the Father, and the Spirit that He could move the heart of one more beloved soul to bring such joy to the two Persons He loves most.

[i] Fever, Otis Blackwell and Eddie Cooley, 1956. Verses 3 and 4.

[ii] Another imperfect image is Siamese twins – two separate souls sharing parts of one body.

[iii] Genesis 1:26

[iv] Colossians 1:16

[v] Isaiah 14:12-14

[vi] Genesis 3:1-7

[vii] Isaiah 53:6

[viii] Matthew 27:46

[ix] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[x] 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Peter 1:18-19

[xi] Isaiah 44:22, Romans 5:10, Colossians 1:22

[xii] Acts 2:32

[xiii] John 20:27

[xiv] Michael Card, Known By the Scars, 1984.

[xv] Luke 15:7, 10

greatest expression of praise and worship

Seeking is the greatest expression of praise and worship. By persistently seeking God, we declare that he is supremely desirable. To seek God is to glorify God, that is, to declare his supreme worth. We might declare with our lips that God is worthy of all praise, but we demonstrate what is truly worth the most to us by what we pursue. The psalms in which people seek God, even from the most alienated positions, are truly psalms of praise and worship, perhaps even more so than those that explicitly make declarations of praise and worship.

Matthew Jacoby, Deeper Places, page 96.

church caused spiritual agony

We turn corners in our own lives when we decisively commit to “have this mind” in us also, much like Hudson Taylor’s transformative time on Brighton Beach in the summer of 1865. He recorded afterwards that while in a corporate worship service home in England after spending some preliminary time in China, his stomach turned and he couldn’t stay in the room:

“Unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony; and there the LORD conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told Him that all the responsibility as to issues and consequences must rest with Him; that as His servant, it was mine to obey and follow Him – His, to direct, to care for, and to guide me and those who might labour with me. Need I say that peace at once flowed into my burdened heart?”

Stephanie Quick, To Trace A Rising Sun, p. 138-139.

the truth makes us happy

People have got into their heads an extraordinary idea that English public-school boys and English youth generally are taught to tell the truth. They are taught absolutely nothing of the kind. At no English public school is it even suggested, except by accident, that it is a man’s duty to tell the truth. What is suggested is something entirely different: that it is a man’s duty not to tell lies. So completely does this mistake soak through all civilisation that we hardly ever think even of the difference between the two things. When we say to a child, “You must tell the truth,” we do merely mean that he must refrain from verbal inaccuracies. But the thing we never teach at all is the general duty of telling the truth, of giving a complete and fair picture of anything we are talking about, of not misrepresenting, not evading, not suppressing, not using plausible arguments that we know to be unfair, not selecting unscrupulously to prove an ex parte case, not telling all the nice stories about the Scotch, and all the nasty stories about the Irish, not pretending to be disinterested when you are really angry, not pretending to be angry when you are really only avaricious. The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is exactly that—that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy.

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

the designated means of mercy

Missions is not about anything more or less than the simple delivery of the beautiful message: Behold, God is great, and we can know him in Christ. We can be reconciled to God in Christ. We can become what we’re built to be – in, through, by and for Jesus, because Jesus. This message is the designated means of mercy, and therefore must be verbally declared and tangibly demonstrated. It is the privilege of the people of Jesus to represent Him where He is not known.

Stephanie Quick, To Trace a Rising Sun, page37

science cannot define morality

One of the world’s most prominent philosophers, Jürgen Habermas, was for decades a defender of the Enlightenment view that only secular reason should be used in the public square. Habermas has recently startled the philosophical establishment, however, with a changed and more positive attitude toward religious faith. He now believes that secular reason alone cannot account for what he calls “the substance of the human.” He argues that science cannot provide the means by which to judge whether its technological inventions are good or bad for human beings. To do that, we must know what a good human person is, and science cannot adjudicate morality or define such a thing. Social sciences may be able to tell us what human life is but not what it ought to be.”

Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p.12

Nikki at Night

It was a warm Thursday night in July. As was my regular practice, I was on my way after work to visit my dad in the Alzheimer’s unit where he lived. As I drove east towards his home, I glanced out the window to my left, and saw a gorgeous deep blue sky with brilliant sunshine on the green trees. Then I looked out the window on the passenger side. The sky there was black and boiling, like some evil rolling in, much as you would see in a science fiction movie. A massive front was moving through the area, and I was driving right along the dividing line separating these colliding masses of warm and cool air.

It had been a pretty rotten day. I just wanted to get home, relax, and get to bed early. So, I decided to eat a quick dinner and keep my visit short to try to beat the weather home before dark. I got to the wing my dad lived in at the home. Then I coaxed him out of his room with my usual ploy – a dish of Culver’s chocolate frozen custard. We talked a bit, which was difficult since he didn’t know who I was. By this time though he that he was in his teens. One evening a nurse said, “George, your son is here” and he told her she was crazy –  he was much too young to have any children! So from that time on I always called him George.

But this stormy night, I was eager to keep things short and sweet. I was focused on getting home before the storm let loose. I wolfed down my frozen custard and was just standing up to leave when the announcement came across the overhead speakers. We were under a tornado warning – meaning tornadoes had been spotted – and the building was locked down. I was disappointed but decided I would just have to wait a bit for the warning to pass and then head home. What I didn’t realize was that the front, instead of moving north or south, was moving due east, in a straight line, staying right above us.

I decided to help the staff as all the residents needed to be moved out of their rooms. We moved everyone to the interior of the building where they would be away from windows and safe from the raging storm outside. We could hear it now, the rain pounding the roof and the windows. And we tracked the storm on my Blackberry, which became more discouraging as time went on. John kept insisting that there was no storm, “they” were making it up. And he needed a cruller. And a beer. He kept reminding us he needed a beer about every 5 minutes. Judy, as usual, would cry out every few minutes – “Help! Help! I need my blanket.” Mary would grab me and not let go. I think she liked me, though I never heard her speak. She would always smile and tweet like a bird at me when she saw me. “Help! Help! I’m too hot!” “I need a cruller. And a beer.” My dad was quietly dozing at the table.

I was quite tired –  two and a half hours later –  when they finally announced that the tornado warning had ended. The building was no longer under lockdown. I fled as fast as I could, thrilled to see it was not raining as I ran to my car.

I started toward home, but then it started raining again. This was not a gentle summer shower; this was punitive! After driving too fast at ten mph in a 40-mph zone with my windshield wipers on high, I finally eased my way to the freeway ramp. To my dismay, a county sheriff was blocking the ramp because the freeway was flooded. At this point I realized two things: 1) I was very thirsty and 2) it had been quite some time since I had used a bathroom. The brightly lit Burger King across the street suddenly looked rather inviting.

I pulled in and parked as close to the building as I could, waited a few minutes, then made a mad dash for the door. Once inside, I found I had joined a group of about a dozen people, all of whom were soaked to the bone with their hair plastered to their faces. They were sharing stories of how they had come to be abandoned at Burger King at 10:00 pm on this stormy July night. One mother and teenaged girl explained that they hit a huge puddle at a dip in the road, their car stalled, and they realized the car was being swept off the road. They both jumped out and ran the two blocks to Burger King. Others shared their equally exciting stories. But one woman mentioned how worried she was about the poor pregnant girl in the ladies’ room.

You couldn’t miss her when she finally came out of the ladies’ room. She was a pretty girl in her early 20’s. She wore a cute little top with spaghetti straps on and short blue jean shorts. And a bulge shouted that she was about six months along. But she was as blue as anyone I have ever seen. I immediately remembered that I had a blanket in the car. As much as I didn’t want to, I ran back to the car and grabbed the blanket, getting freshly drenched in the process. I ran back in and wrapped her in the blanket and asked a couple of the older ladies to put their arms around her to warm her up.

After a few minutes, I bought the young woman a hot chocolate, and we sat down in a booth together. Since just looking at each other was awkward, I decided that maybe we should talk. She told me her name was Nikki, and her car was nearby. But her car too had stalled, and she couldn’t get it started again. She had called her boyfriend, but he wouldn’t answer. Then she tried her parents, but the weather was too nasty so they wouldn’t come out for her. She was beginning to warm up a bit both physically and relationally. We continued to talk. Nikki was six months pregnant but struggling terribly. She had just found out that her boyfriend liked her a lot, but he liked his freedom even more. No way did he want to be tied down with a baby. So, the boyfriend had decided that it was time to break things off with Nikki. Next, Nikki’s boss told her she was being let go. Evidently, Hooters doesn’t think pregnant waitresses pull the patrons in very well. With no boyfriend and no job, Nikki could no longer afford her apartment, and she had been told she had to be out in less than two weeks. Out of desperation, she visited the minister at the church she grew up in. He explained to Nikki that since she was pregnant out of wedlock, there wasn’t anything they could do for her. Oh, and they would not baptize her child because the baby had been “conceived in sin.” By the time Nikki finished her story, her face was as wet from her tears as it was from the rain.

At this point God nudged me, and I began to explain the love of Jesus to Nikki. I was focused on her, but I noticed a couple of the others also edged a little closer, so they could overhear what I was saying. I explained that God’s love was unconditional, that nothing she had done was beyond what God could forgive and make right. I explained how Jesus wanted to be a part of her life, to help her through her difficulties. And as I shared the gospel with her, I saw hope in her eyes. I kept several Bibles in my car, just for cases like this (which had never happened before.) Once again, I ran to the car and back, this time to get a Bible for Nikki. In that short time, God spoke to me again. I had explained the gospel to her, was getting her a Bible, but I had not given her the opportunity to pray so as to ask Jesus into her life. When I got back in, I gave her the Bible and then asked her if should would like to pray with me. She said she really did want to. I had her repeat short phrases as I led her in a prayer to invite Christ into her life. She was still sopping wet, but you could see a difference in her face.

We used my phone to try to call her boyfriend and parents again. The storm had finally calmed down, so when we finally reached her father, he agreed to come to help her.

A short time later I pulled out of the Burger King parking lot. I was disappointed to see that the on-ramp to the freeway was still closed. But my heart was burning with joy. The next ramp was open, and I was flying down a nearly deserted freeway towards home.

As I drove home late that night, several things dawned on me. First, I realized I never had used the bathroom or eaten. But I recognized that even when I have a bad day and a lousy attitude, God can still choose to use me. Perhaps it was because I was at my weakest. I could not claim that this was because of anything I had done that day to produce spiritual results; God chose this day. And I realized there was no way I would ever have been at some Burger King 30 miles away from my home on a Thursday night. There was no way I would be talking to a Hooter’s waitress about God. But Jesus loves Nikki. He had a plan for her. So that night, God sent a wild storm and arranged for me to meet Nikki at that Burger King.

And one desperate, young woman who was herself bearing a child, became a child of God.

 

 

Closure:

I never heard again from Nikki. She comes to mind occasionally, and I always stop to pray for her and her child. I will never know in this life how Nikki is doing, but I have confidence that God knows and loves her intimately.

Eve Ponderings

Did Eve come to realize just how badly her choice turned out when she chose to sin in the Garden? Did she realize what she had done soon after it happened and wish she could fix it somehow? To get a mulligan, to have a second chance, to undo her sin. I can almost hear Eve pleading with God – “No, make it stop! I didn’t mean for all this to happen! This isn’t what I expected.”

Bible-adam-and-eve

Imagine the guilt she felt those first sleepless nights alone with Adam – outside of the Garden. Wondering if their relationship with God could be restored to even a semblance of what it had once been. Wondering what her relationship with Adam was going to be like now. Still hurt because he had blamed her. Did they sleep arm in arm or back to back?

I have observed that when a son dies, his mother is crushed. Should a mother discover that her son is a murderer, she is devastated. For Eve, to have her son murder his brother must have been crippling. When they found Abel’s body, it may be that he was the first human being to have physically died. What would it have been like to hold a lifeless body when no one had ever done so before? How long did it take her to realize that Abel would never talk or eat or be with them again? Only now did Adam and Eve and their offspring begin to understand the depth of the curse of death. No one could comfort Eve with words –  because no one had ever before tasted the gall of death like Eve did on that day.

What great grief Eve must have carried with her being aware that her suffering and sorrow were caused by her own actions. Eve, more than any other, bore the burden of her sons’ fates because of her own past actions. Death became reality because of that one fateful choice she made years earlier. I can only imagine the self-loathing and anger with herself she must have felt, wishing she had not made that terrible choice.

As Eve lived and had more children, how did her heart cope with all the pain she saw in her ever-growing family. She and Adam had known a perfect world with no pain, no sorrow, no loss. She lost a world where she had been continually walking rightly with God. She lost the life where her heart had still been pure. Now she saw her children and grandchildren, all broken and flailing because of sin.

Can you imagine if Eve were still alive today? Since the Fall, the world has seen war, disease, disasters, murder, torture, genocide – evil upon evil. And Eve would know deep in her heart that it was all because of her choice made oh so long ago. She chose to experience something new, to look for excitement, to try out her own wings. She chose to listen to bad counsel. She chose to disobey God. And all humanity has been under the weight of sin and sorrow ever since.

When we get to heaven, I imagine that God must lift the burden of our memories; of our knowledge of the consequences of our sin on others around us. When I think back on my life, I cannot shake the burden of knowing how often I failed. I failed as a parent, as a son and brother, as a husband. There are so many bad choices that I cannot go back and fix. I cannot fathom how Eve could possibly bear the full knowledge of how her selfish choice played out in the millennia that followed.

We know that God sees all the evil in the world, but to a much deeper extent and intimacy than Eve ever could. Eve can see world history and how mankind has ruined itself and our world. But God sees into each human heart and knows each thought. Those of us who appear to be “good” people all still have evil thoughts. We still do “good” things but for the wrong reasons – how this must be repugnant to God. He knows the conniving of both the good and the evil. How we must be a stench to Him – a stench that would make us retch and vomit.

And yet –  the Father loves his people. He knows and cares for each human being that lives today – all 7 billion of us – and everyone who lived before us and those yet to come. He chose an extremely personal and painful way to make a way for us to be cleaned up and reformed and totally restored. The Son chose to take the burden of all the evil that men and women have done to one another upon himself. He took the punishment that was due to us, but also the guilt and the shame and the self-loathing. He embraced us who were and are utterly revolting. He tenderly cared for us when He should have turned and run to abandon us to our own fate. He did this when He should have been utterly contemptuous and disgusted with us.

So Eve does not forget the consequences of her actions so long ago. No. The burden of anger, guilt, and despair has been lifted from her. When Jesus died, he died for Adam and Eve. Jesus, the “Second Adam,” took upon himself all the burden of Adam and Eve’s original sin and made them new. By bearing their sin, he bears the burden of the sin of all of their offspring as well. And as well have all chosen evil ourselves, Jesus also offers to take our burdens from us.

You and I cannot live with injustice. If someone we love is wronged, it burns within us until justice is satisfied. The anger eats away at us until the day that the wrong has been recompensed and the guilty have been punished. Perhaps that, too, is the image of God in us.

God the Father was unsatisfied, unsettled, because of the wrongs that had not been righted, with injustice being perpetuated, the oppressors getting their way. His anger blazed at the evil in this fallen world. So, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was also for the benefit of His Father. The death of Jesus paid the penalty that was outstanding and allowed the Father to rest knowing the debt owed his suffering children had finally been settled. The Father again had peace because creation had been set right again. The wrath of God has been finally, forever satisfied. And the Father may once again enjoy the company of the people he created to love.

As in the Garden, God is giving each human being a choice. The choice in the Garden was whether to trust God, to hold firmly to the truth when tempted to doubt, to continue to obey when disobedience looked more attractive. Today, God gives us the choice of whether to trust the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice. We are given the choice to grasp this truth, to learn to trust Him when we struggle and doubt, to learn to obey when all within us screams to disobey. He gives us the freedom to choose again. We are free to continue living lives of despair and guilt, weighed down by all our shortcomings. We are free to choose Jesus’ offer to be redeemed and enjoy the presence of God.

For me, this is proof of God’s infinite love, wisdom, and mercy. No finite love could ever love the filthy lot of deranged scoundrels that we are. Only an infinite love could be so inexhaustible that it could love the totally unlovable people that we have become. Only infinite creativity could have devised a plan this fantastical. He devised a way to restore us who were ruined and revolting and make us desirable and yes, even beautiful.

As we who trust Jesus stand today, we have one foot in the unfathomable depth of sin and one foot in the incomparable glory of heaven. We struggle as we are pulled from both sides. But one day, we will step through. We will firmly plant both feet in heaven. And the God who had every reason to reject and destroy us will actually allow us to live in his presence for the rest of eternity. He will transform us into glorious beings that are restored to that original purity that Adam and Eve knew before they put their wills ahead of God’s. We will be welcomed into God’s eternal loving family.

What other god that any person has ever devised and worshiped could even come close to what our God has done for us? Praise him forever!